In the Wikipedia article on Cloakroom there is the following paragraph:

Attended cloakrooms, or coat checks, are staffed rooms where coats and bags can be stored securely. Typically, a ticket or receipt is given to the customer, with a corresponding ticket attached to the garment or item.

I am trying to figure out why it uses "the customer" and "the garment or item", instead of "a customer" and "a garment or item". These nouns were not introduced before so we don't actually know them to use the definite article.

Could anyone explain that, please?


  • +1 , Nice Question where the "Introduction" is not obvious. It is Implicit in "coats and bags [belonging to customers] can be stored". The Explicit Introduction is at the starting "A cloakroom, or sometimes coatroom, is a room for people to hang their coats, cloaks or other outerwear when they enter a building." .... Welcome to English Stack Exchange !
    – Prem
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 7:33

1 Answer 1


After the word typically, a scenario is set describing a transaction where customer and garment or item must be present to form the scenario. They are thus assumed, and get definite articles. The items that the article wants to introduce into that scenario and discuss are "a ticket or receipt" and a corresponding ticket, so they get indefinite articles.

At any rate, the passage as it is seems idiomatic to me, and if it used all indefinite articles, it would seem strange.

  • 1
    +1 , I agree that it is Idiomatic; I think the "Introduction" is Implicit here while the Explicit Introduction occurs earlier. More Details in my comment to OP.
    – Prem
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 7:40
  • Could you please elaborate on what it means to be idiomatic?
    – in-u
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 9:29
  • @in-u Idiomatic means that it's a natural expression in the language, sounding as if it could come from a native speaker. Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 12:48
  • Thanks for the clarification! So, does it mean that using all indefinite articles would not sound idiomatic in any case? I mean, if there is no introduction, no use of the word "typically", just the statement: "A ticket or receipt is given to a customer"?
    – in-u
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 7:50
  • @in-u To me, if it used all indefinite articles, it wouldn't necessarily be unidiomatic, but it would sound as if the writer were trying to speak of the topic from a distance. It wouldn't sound as if a scenario had been established, with some elements assumed as present. The assumptions about a customer and an item to be stored are warranted by the situation. Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 9:21

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